WINDHOEK, Aug. 25 – The Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Juliet Kavetuna has called for the strengthening and integration of mental health in health services offered in Namibia.
Kavetuna said one of the goals of the Ministry is to promote and maintain a high standard of mental health and well-being in the country, and to reduce stigma against people with mental disorders. She believes this will only be achieved through the development of comprehensive facility-based and community-based mental health services that are decentralized and integrated into the general health service.
This, Kavetuna said, cannot be fully realised without developing a network of health services that include mental health care with outreach to the community and within reach of the community.
Namibia’s Mental Health Act of 1973 has an outdated definition of what mental health is, and many provisions of the Act are contrary to World Health Organization guidelines regarding the treatment of mental health patients.
As such, those guidelines are not in sync with current best practice developments pertaining to mental health problems and the treatment of persons with mental health problems.
“Fortunately, new legislation is in an advanced stage of development and it will, once promulgated, establish an appropriate legal framework that protects the rights of people with mental disorders, promotes mental health, prevents disorders and ensures appropriate services for treatment and rehabilitation for the population of Namibia as well as to reduce stigma and discrimination against people with mental disorders,” Kavetuna relayed at the official opening of the Bel Esprit Mental Health Clinic in her speech which was delivered by Petronella Masabane, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry.
Furthermore, Kavetuna said that mental health promotion and the provision of services are lagging far behind in comparison with other levels of health care delivery in the country.
“As a post-conflict society with many development challenges this does not auger well for the future of our country and for our endeavours for comprehensive health service delivery,” Kavetuna said.
Meanwhile, the current medical housing capacity at Namibia’s two major health facilities (Windhoek Central Hospital and Oshakati Hospital) is not responsive to the needs arising due to the increase in the number of patients diagnosed with a mental illness, according to Kavetuna. About 33 744 patients were admitted with a psychiatric diagnosis between 2012 and 2016 while about 50 503 Operationalized Psycho-dynamic Diagnosis (OPD) Psychiatric Disorders were reported during the period under review.
“Recognizing these challenges and in response, the Ministry developed a road map that proposes the establishment of four mental hospitals across the country by 2023 and that every district hospital should have a psychiatric wing to cater for mentally ill patients.”
Alongside the development of these facilities, Halfway Houses, Day Care Centres and Sheltered Workshops to provide for rehabilitation and after care of psychiatric patients in the community were proposed. According to her, the road map also takes into account the anticipated staff and expertise needed to support these facilities and therefore in-service and formal training of mental health professionals needs to be carried out countrywide. – Ronald Geingob